Attorney Robert Bialkin

Free Consultation: via phone, online, or in office.
Immediate Service: Start your case now at no extra charge.
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Serving: Sonoma County, the Bay Area, and California.
Referrals Available: In any area of law. Start here.

Santa Rosa Real Estate Attorney, REALTOR®, Mortgage Loan Officer, Business Broker Associate
Santa Rosa Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Attorney, Real Estate Agent, REALTOR®, Business Broker Associate

Bankruptcy, Debt & Foreclosure Lawyer

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is a fresh start that discharges most credit card, medical, and other unsecured non-priority debts. Generous bankruptcy exemptions protect personal and real property. Upon filing, an automatic stay immediately stops creditors from calling or collecting during your bankruptcy. As a bankruptcy attorney Santa Rosa, most of my Chapter 7 clients discharge all of their debts and keep all of their property.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a repayment plan that stops foreclosure or wage garnishments and allows you to catch up on taxes, mortgages, child support, and other secured and priority debts over a period of 60 months. As a bankruptcy attorney in Santa Rosa, most of my Chapter 13 clients save their property or stop foreclosure while getting caught up on taxes, child support, and secured debts. Upon completion of the 3 to 5 year repayment plan, you will also receive a discharge of your unsecured non-priority debts such as credit cards and medical bills.

Bankruptcy gives you the potential to:

Discharge most credit cards, medical bills, old taxes, car loans, mortgages, loans, and other dischargeable non-priority debts.

Protect real estate, personal property, wages, and retirement from creditors.

Stop calls, lawsuits, garnishment, levies, foreclosure, repossession, and harassment.

Recover garnishments, levies, and your credit.

The Bialkin Law Bankruptcy Process

Step 1. Complete an Online Questionnaire – Complete the online questionnaire that will be emailed to you from MyCaseInfo. Take your time and answer ALL questions with honest information and proper punctuation. Do your best to list all of your creditors, but if necessary we can pull a credit report to double check the list of creditors you provided. Always review and update the questionnaire before submitting it when you have completed your payment plan.

Step 2. Take a Credit Counseling Course – Before filing you MUST complete an online credit counseling course at or by calling (989) 402-5161. Purchase the $9.76 certificate of completion and have it emailed to Select the option for filing in the Northern District of California. Our fax number is (707) 921-5006, but do not check the option to have the certificate faxed to us or they will charge you an additional $5.

Step 3. Sign and File – Once you are ready to make your final payment AND have completed the questionnaire AND credit counseling course, submit the MyCaseInfo Questionnaire and call for an appointment to file your bankruptcy. Scan and email to your latest tax return, three months of bank statements, printouts showing your bank account balances on the date of the signing, your latest retirement statements, and the last six complete months of pay stubs or profit and loss statements.

Step 4. Take a Financial Education Course – AFTER filing you must complete a second online financial education course at or calling (989) 303-8611. Purchase the $9.76 certificate of completion and have it emailed to

Step 5. Attend a Hearing – After filing you will receive a letter in the mail from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court that gives you a date and time to attend your 341(a) meeting of creditors at 777 Sonoma Ave, Room 116, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 with your attorney. Read everything mailed to you and email us to confirm that you can attend. You MUST bring a current driver’s license and your social security card to this meeting. Arrive 30 minutes early. At this hearing the Trustee will ask you questions under oath such as “Is the information you provided true and correct? Did you list all your debts and assets? Do you need to make any changes? How did you come up with the value of your car?” Answer honestly and the Trustee will usually conclude your case. In a Chapter 7, if there are no outstanding issues, approximately 60 days later your debts will be automatically discharged. Congratulations!

In a Chapter 13, you will be making your first plan payment to the Trustee within 30 days of filing, and on the 20th day of each month for 60 months. The payment must be in the form of a cashier’s check or money order (no personal checks) that includes your case number and last name made out to “David Burchard Trustee”, PO Box 1922, Memphis, TN 38101-1922 or by automatic bank debit that can be set up at You must provide your tax return each year to the Trustee and make all of your monthly payments to the trustee. Upon completion, if there are no outstanding issues you will receive a discharge. Congratulations!

Bankruptcy Frequently Asked Questions FAQ:

(Hint: Press Ctrl+F, then type a word to search)

What are the advantages of bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is your right to start over financially by erasing (discharging) all or most of your debts owed to creditors while still keeping and protecting your property with bankruptcy exemptions. Filing bankruptcy creates an automatic stay that stops collection efforts such as harassing calls, foreclosure, repossessions, lawsuits, garnishments, and bank account levies.

What is an automatic stay?
Filing bankruptcy creates an automatic stay that makes it illegal for creditors to call, foreclose, repossess, garnish, levy or try to collect during your bankruptcy. The automatic stay starts as soon as you file.

Should I file bankruptcy?
If you are at the end of your rope financially and cannot catch up on your debt without a fresh start then bankruptcy is probably a good solution. I usually ask my clients, “If we wipe out your debt, can you afford your life moving forward?” If the answer is Yes, then you are probably a good candidate for bankruptcy.

Do I qualify for bankruptcy?
Unless you have a significant amount of assets or income, you should qualify to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Even if you have too many assets or income you can still file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Most businesses and large estates file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

What is Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a fresh start that erases (discharges) all or most of your debt and let’s you keep and protect your property.

What is Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a repayment plan that stops foreclosure and wage garnishment by allowing you to catch up on your mortgage, taxes, or car payments over 3 to 5 years. Chapter 13 also erases (discharges) all or most of your unsecured debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcy stops foreclosure and allows you to get caught up on your mortgage. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is also the backup plan if you have too much income or assets for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

What is a creditors’ 341(a) Meeting of Creditors with the Trustee?
A Trustee is hired by the court to oversee your bankruptcy on behalf of the creditors. A 341(a) hearing is a meeting that takes place about 30 days after you file bankruptcy. You, your lawyer, and the Trustee sit down at a conference table to answer questions under oath. If the Trustee is satisfied that everything is in order, he/she will conclude your case. This meeting includes a 15-30 minute wait, and then a 5-10 minute Trustee Meeting. The Santa Rosa bankruptcy attorney at Bialkin Law arguably prepares you more for this meeting than any other attorney in Sonoma County. Our law firm prepares you for this meeting by familiarizing you with the documents, telling you ahead of time the questions you are likely to be asked, and giving you an opportunity to observe someone else’s 341(a) Trustee Meeting so that you are comfortable with the process.

How long does it take to file bankruptcy?
In an emergency I can file your bankruptcy within hours or sooner.

How long does an automatic stay last?
In a Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy it lasts until your case closes, usually about 90 days in a Chapter 7 and 3 to 5 years in a Chapter 13.

What assets are exempt in bankruptcy? Do I get to keep my assets such as car, house, and money, and personal property if I file for bankruptcy?
Properly filing bankruptcy ensures you erase your debts while still keeping cash, cars, property, personal belongings, retirement savings, real estate, jewelry, furniture, appliances, computers, tools, and anything else that is important to you. The bankruptcy code provides generous exemptions that are applied by your bankruptcy attorney.

Does bankruptcy stop foreclosure or judicial trustee sale of my home?
Chapter 7 bankruptcy can delay a foreclosure / trustee sale of your house until your case closes or a creditor asks for special permission to proceed during the bankruptcy. If your home has equity or sentimental value, Chapter 13 bankruptcy laws immediately stop a foreclosure and force the bank to accept a payment plan that will allow you to stay in the home and catch when you are behind in payments.

Which debts can I discharge in bankruptcy? Are credit cards, medical bills, auto loans, mortgages, and other debts dischargeable by filing bankruptcy?
Most secured and unsecured debts such as credit cards, medical bills, car loans, mortgages, and other personal and business debts can be discharged in bankruptcy.

Which debts cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy? Can tax debts, student educational school loans, government loans, child or spousal support, or lawsuit judgments be discharged by filing a bankruptcy? What debts are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy?
Most tax debts, child or spousal support, debts for injury to a person or property that resulted in a lawsuit judgment, most government subsidized and school educational student loans, and post-bankruptcy debts can generally not be discharged in a bankruptcy.

How much does it cost to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
Attorney Robert Bialkin charges attorneys’ fees on a sliding scale with a payment plan and will start your case for free regardless of your ability to pay. Just like all bankruptcy attorneys the payment plan must be completed before filing or our debt would be discharged as well. The other costs associated with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy are: $335 for court filing fees and two required online Credit Counseling Courses that cost about $10 each. The filing fee can be waived for debtors that make less than 150% of the current poverty level. If you don’t qualify for a fee waiver, the judge will still likely grant your application to pay the filing fee in 4 installments.

How much does it cost to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, attorneys’ fees are paid as an initial deposit, with the bulk of your balance being paid as part of your payment plan to the Trustee over 3 to 5 years. The other costs associated with a Chapter 13 bankruptcy are: $310 for court filing fees and two required online Credit Counseling Courses that cost about $10 each.

What documents do I need to file bankruptcy?
To file bankruptcy with Bialkin Law a debtor must complete an online or paper bankruptcy questionnaire, complete two required Credit Counseling Courses, gather their latest tax returns, 3 months bank statements for each account, their latest retirement account or life insurance policies, a COMPLETE set of 7 months of pay stubs if employed, and 1 year of financial information for self-employed business owners.

Will bankruptcy ruin or fix my credit score? How will bankruptcy affect my credit score?
If you need a bankruptcy attorney in Santa Rosa, it is highly likely that your credit already stinks. Yes bankruptcy will technically lower your score. But, it also immediately starts you on the road to fixing your credit and improving your credit scores and FICO. This is because your income remains the same, but you no longer have monthly debts. So, your new debt to income ratio is immediately improving your creditworthiness. Purchasing a new automobile or opening a secured credit card and using it wisely after bankruptcy is the best way to start improving your credit. I am often able to get mortgage clients loans within 2 to 3 years or less after a bankruptcy.

Can I get a new loan or credit cards after filing bankruptcy?
Credit card companies and lenders have different policies but we find that most are quick to offer you a credit card again and especially a loan secured by a vehicle. From a lender’s viewpoint, you are not allowed to file another bankruptcy for at least 8 years so they know you are on the hook for at least that long. Plus, before the bankruptcy your theoretical salary was around say $3000 per month, but $1500 of it was used to pay your credit card debts and the other $1500 was used for your living expenses. After the bankruptcy, you still make $3000 and spend $1500 on living expenses, but you now have the $1500 from the former credit card payments freed up to spend on new credit cards or loans. Our office can even make mortgage and home loans a reality within a few years.

How do I stop creditors and/or collection agencies from harassing me with phone calls? Can creditors and/or collection agencies keep calling me after I file bankruptcy? Will bankruptcy stop the harassing collection agent phone calls?
Creditors have the right to contact you for debt collection purposes. However, filing bankruptcy makes it illegal for a creditor to continue attempting to collect the debt after being given notice of the bankruptcy. Always make sure to keep any letters and a make detailed log of any phone calls received from a creditor after you file for bankruptcy. Contact our office immediately to take action as you may be entitled to statutory damages for the violation of the automatic stay.

What should I do if I am sued by a creditor? How do I answer a summons? Will bankruptcy help if I am being sued by a credit card company?
If you are sued by a creditor on a collections case, you have 30 days to respond or that creditor will win by default. Filing bankruptcy stops the lawsuit and discharges most unsecured non-priority debts such as credit cards or cash advances. If you do not take action to answer the lawsuit or file bankruptcy, the creditor will be awarded a default judgment. A default judgment allows a creditor to put a lien on your property or garnish your wages. Even if a creditor has obtained a judgment, bankruptcy can discharge the debt and stop levies, liens, and wage garnishment.

How do I stop wage garnishments and bank levies? Does bankruptcy stop wage garnishment or a bank levy?
Filing bankruptcy immediately creates an automatic stay which prevents most creditors from garnishing wages or levying a bank account during the bankruptcy. Once the debts are discharged by the bankruptcy, the creditor can no longer garnish or levy since you no longer owe the debt.

Can I get my money back from a bank levy or wage garnishment if I file bankuptcy?
Under certain circumstances you can get back money that was levied or garnished. You must, among other things, file bankruptcy within 90 days and be insolvent at the time of the levy.

Can I still use or do I have to stop using my credit cards during bankruptcy?
You must stop using your credit cards for purchases or cash advances as soon as you anticipate filing bankruptcy or those purchases can be investigated for fraud. Purchases and cash advances made too close to filing will be scrutinized and may be excluded from the bankruptcy.

What is the minimum amount of debt do I need to have to file bankruptcy? Do I have enough debt to file bankruptcy?
There is no minimum or maximum amount of debt to file for bankruptcy. Even if you have less than $10k in debt, you may want to still file bankruptcy for many reasons, including the fact that you simply cannot afford to repay the debts regardless of the amount. Filing bankruptcy also delays foreclosure or a trustee sale, stops a lawsuit, and/or makes collections efforts and harassing phone calls illegal. I usually ask my clients, “If we wipe out your debt, can you afford your life moving forward?” If the answer is Yes, then you are probably a good candidate for bankruptcy.

Can I eliminate tax debt in bankruptcy? Are tax debts dischargeable?
Tax debts are considered priority and are generally not dischargeable. However, income tax debts older than 3 years are sometimes dischargeable in a chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be used to force the IRS into a payment plan.

Can I get rid of educational school student loan debts in bankruptcy? Are educational student loans dischargeable?
No, unless you can prove that repayment will cause an undue hardship.

How often can I file bankruptcy? How long do I have to wait before filing bankruptcy again?
You have a Federal right to start over by filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy 8 years after you filed your last chapter 7 or 6 years after you filed your last chapter 13. You can file another chapter 13 bankruptcy 4 years after you file a chapter 7 or 2 years after you file a chapter 13.

What if I left a creditor out of my bankruptcy petition? Does a debt still get discharged if I forget to list a creditor and give them notice of my bankruptcy?
If you forget to list a creditor, that debt is likely still considered discharged so long as you did not leave the creditor out intentionally.

Can I modify my mortgage? What is a loan modification?
The loan modification process is getting better, and is often a great way to keep your home. However, the process can take up to a year and by that time the foreclosure process is usually complete. Bankruptcy is a more reliable way to halt the foreclosure.

Is a co-signer or co-debtor still responsible for the debt if I file bankruptcy?
A co-signer is also fully responsible for the loan, and must pay the debt themselves if you default on the loan or file for bankruptcy.

Does my spouse have to file bankruptcy if I do? Is my spouse’s debt discharged if I file bankruptcy but they don’t?
You can file bankruptcy individually if you are married, but the debt is only discharged as to your interest and your spouse remains financially responsible for the entire debt.

What is the difference between secured and unsecured debt?
Unsecured debt is usually credit cards or medical bills that creditors must sue you to collect. Secured debt is usually a car or home loan that are secured by the car or home in the form of a mortgage as collateral for your loan. Creditors may foreclose or repossess the property that is security for the loan if you do not make your payments.

Can a business file bankruptcy? What is a Chapter 11 bankruptcy?
Generally, if the owner of a small business files bankruptcy they must close their doors and sell the business assets to pay creditors. The remaining debts are then discharged in the bankruptcy. Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a business to continue operating under a reorganization and debt repayment plan supervised by the Trustee.

Can I file bankruptcy on my own without an attorney?
Bankruptcy is complicated but can be done successfully without a lawyer. However, creditors can use errors in your paperwork to demand that your debts not be discharged and can leave protectable assets unprotected and subject to sale by the Trustee. These losses can amount to much more than the cost of an attorney.